It’s a shame we can’t insert emojis into newspaper print.
If we could, this column wouldn’t have a headline; instead, it would have a couple of rows of eyeroll emojis.
I save my most exaggerated eyerolls for when I hear crazy rumors about state natural resource agencies deliberately sabotaging the very wildlife populations they manage.
I’m sure you’ve heard some of them — that the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources dropped rattlesnakes out of helicopters to eat turkey eggs, that the DNR conspired with auto insurance companies to bring in coyotes, etc., etc.
I collect these rumors like some people collect baseball cards.
The latest one I heard is a real doozy, at least at first glance.
Apparently, some people in Michigan believe that their DNR is airdropping Canadian gray wolves into the Wolverine State to kill off moose.
Unlike many of the wild-eyed rumors I’ve heard here in West Virginia, though, this one at least has a kernel of truth to it. In 2019, four wolves were indeed airlifted to Isle Royale, Michigan, to help control a badly overpopulated moose herd.
The island, located in 56 miles off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in Lake Superior, is also a national park, which means hunting isn’t allowed. Moose and wolves were native to the island, but the wolves were killed off and the moose population exploded.
What amazes me is that some Michiganders believe lupine airlifts are still going on, but once a rumor gets started, it’s almost impossible to stop.
That’s especially true when the rumor jives with people’s built-in prejudices.
Far too many West Virginians harbor a deep-seated distrust of the DNR, and that helps fuel their willingness to buy into harebrained rumors. Sit for a while in any Mountain State barbershop, and you’ll probably hear guys gripe about the way the DNR manages the deer herd, the bear population and the turkey population.
It was in a barbershop that I first heard the rattlesnakes-from-helicopters rumor. Likewise the insurance company-DNR-coyote rumor.
Those aren’t my favorite barbershop rumors, though. That honor goes to the one I heard a few years back.
The general topic of discussion, as usual, was the DNR’s alleged mismanagement of the state’s deer herd. Some of the fellows believed the agency was allowing hunters to kill too many does. One guy, though, insisted that agency biologists were bringing in predators to kill off some of the whitetail population.
When one of the other patrons asked where he got that information, the fellow bristled.
“I’ve seen it with my own eyes!” he claimed, his voice rising. “I was hunting up in Hardy County, in the George Washington National Forest, and I seen a DNR truck stop along the road and turn loose a pack of hyeenies! Must have been a dozen of ‘em! Can you imagine how many deer those hyeenies et?”
I usually hold my tongue during such discussions, but I had to ask.
“Do you mean hyenas… African hyenas?”
“That’s right! Hyeenies! It’s no dang wonder I never see any deer up there!”
Where’s a nice eyeroll emoji when you need one?